The Exodus Epic (part one)
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The Journey from Slavery to Sanctuary
At Passover (Pesach) we remember and celebrate the Exodus Epic, the awesome and mighty event of our redemption. We should recognize, however, that the Exodus from Egypt was not an end unto itself, but the beginning of a journey – a walk with God to a place of promise.
It will help us in our Exodus Epic to see an overview—the ‘big picture’ of the journey—as well as to understand the goal of the journey. Let us begin by asking the question, “Why does God redeem the Israelite slaves?” From the Divine point of view, what was the reason for the Exodus, and what was its destination or goal (Greek: telos)? When we examine the answer to this question, we will begin to appreciate an extraordinary truth: that the Creator of the heavens and the earth wanted to ‘come down’ and enter into an intimate, on-going relationship with His beloved bride, Israel.
Why did God save the Israelite slaves? A deeply entrenched Protestant dogma is that Jews attempt to earn their salvation by “works of the Law,” whereas believers in Jesus receive the gift of salvation by faith through God’s grace. Yet, what ‘works’ did Israel do for 430 years in Egypt to earn their salvation by the Hand of ADONAI? It doesn’t take long to answer: They did nothing to deserve their redemption. God saved them at His gracious initiative, not in response to their merits. Centuries before, He had made a covenantal promise to Abraham, and God is loyal. He is faithful to keep His word.
The Apostle Paul declares that Israel is beloved for the sake of the Patriarchs. (Romans 11.28) Further, the God of Israel abounds in hesed – in grace, covenant loyalty and redemptive initiative. God is in pursuit of His children; He seeks out a people. Because of His great love, YHWH wants to remove His beloved from the clutches of slavery and Pharaoh’s dominion. His motive for doing so is to bring them close to Himself, under His kingship and care.
So the first reason YHWH redeems His people Israel (and by way of application, the reason He redeems us) is to take them out of bondage in order to bring them to Himself. God is passionate for His people. He will go to extraordinary lengths to bring them near to Himself. The Passover event reminds us this. God says to the Israelites, “I’ve brought you out of slavery and taken you from Egypt in order to bring you to Myself.” (Exodus 19.4) In other words, the Exodus was not an end unto itself; it was but a beginning. Coming out of Egypt was the beginning of a journey, a sacred journey. It was the beginning of a relationship, a holy covenantal relationship. It was the beginning of a marriage.
That I May Dwell Among You
What was the destination of the Exodus? When we view the journey from God’s perspective, we see a progressive, unfolding revelation, leading to a destined culmination. The first stage of the Exodus (leaving Egypt) was intended to bring Israel to Himself. The second stage was to enter into a covenant relationship with Israel – to be their God, and they, His people. This happened at Shavu’ot (the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost), seven weeks or fifty days after leaving Egypt. Shavu’ot can be called the atzeret, or completion, of Passover. YHWH brought His bride to Himself at Sinai, and there He presented Israel with a ketubah (marriage contract), the Torah. Moses read the Ten Words, and Israel like a bride said, “We do!” (Exodus 24.7) It was the sealing of the covenant relationship between God and Israel at Sinai. There, YHWH became King, and Israel, His bride.
In the making of the covenant, God discloses yet another goal of the Exodus. YHWH declares to Moses, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25.8 NASB). The LORD commands the redeemed children of Israel to build a Mikdash (Sanctuary) “for Me.” Why? “So that I might dwell in the midst of you.” The Bridegroom desires a house, a holy habitation, where He and His beloved may meet in loving intimacy and covenantal blessing. He desires to be not only Israel’s King but her Bridegroom, and as such, nothing compares to being face to face and growing in intimate relationship with the beloved!
In much the same way, the Exodus Epic foreshadows our calling out as the church (ekkleisia)of God. It instructs us regarding our redemption and relationship with God through Messiah Yeshua. We can be assured that just as God called redeemed Israel to Himself, so too He calls those of in Christ to Himself! The high, holy and transcendent Elohim passionately desires to draw nigh to His beloved. His perennial intention is to be to dwell in the midst of the earth, so His glory can fill it and the knowledge of Adonai is available to everyone who seeks to enter into a holy, covenant relationship of love with Him.
From Egypt to Zion
Let us take this revelation further by reading 1 Kings 6.1. There is one – and only one – reference in the whole Tanakh (Old Testament) that reckons an event specifically to the elapse of time from the Exodus. Surely this is auspicious and says something significant to us about the ultimate goal of redemption.
Now it came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv which is the second month, that he began to build the House of the LORD.
The Passover from Egypt comes to its destined culmination for the children of Israel in the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem! That the Exodus is directly connected with Solomon’s building of the House of God in this text is more than a coincidence. It is the climax of the progressive revelation already unveiled in the book of Exodus.
So we see that the ends or goals of the Exodus are several. God redeems His covenant people in order to: 1) deliver them from bondage; 2) get them out of Egypt; 3) bring them to Himself; 4) reveal His wisdom and will for them in Torah; 5) reign over them as King and love them as a Husband; 6) dwell perpetually in their midst as their God and they, as His treasured people.
The LORD brings His people up, out of Egypt, so that He might come down and dwell in the midst of them in holy habitation and covenantal communion. He instructs them to build a Sanctuary so His glory might come down and take up residence in the earth. From the beginning God intended the nations to find their blessing in Abraham and his covenant with the One true God. In the grace of covenant faithfulness, hesed, God rescues Abraham’s children, takes them out of Egyptian bondage and brings them to Himself – all in order to dwell in the midst of them, and through them, bless all the nations of the earth.
The Exodus teaches us that the God who is high, exalted and holy is also passionate and purposeful about coming into the earth to redeem and draw near His people, dwelling among them. The reciprocal responsibility of the redeemed is to walk with the Redeemer in holiness (for sin separates), building for Him a dwelling place in the earth, one suitable for His Spirit. Israel’s God and King desires to draw all nations to Himself that they too might know Him and “learn of His ways.”
The Exodus Epic, then, comes to a climax 430 years later with the construction of the Temple by the man of peace, Shlomo. The Ark, containing the covenant tablets inscribed at Sinai, is placed with the Holy Place, and the K’vod Adonai, the glory of God’s dwelling fills the Sanctuary constructed for Him. (1 Kings 8.9-11) This holy Habitation is destined to become a House of Prayer for all nations.
This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice. Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore his audio seminars.